Monday, June 27, 2011 - A 'Conservative Problem-Solver'

I continue to be completely undecided in the GOP primary race, and this article is not my endorsement.  However, Huntsman is a player we should be familiar with, and I believe he’ll be competitive in this race. - Opinion: A 'Conservative Problem-Solver'


No Republican presidential candidate stirs more curiosity than Jon Huntsman. "What about Huntsman?" You hear it all the time. Who is Jon Huntsman and where is he coming from?

If there's a short version of Mr. Huntsman's core message, it is that America needs to start competing again, and aggressively, in the global marketplace.

Jon Huntsman, a discursive talker, brings a lot to the table. What remains to be seen is how he presents it all in a way Republican voters will want to buy. He's been pegged as the man running toward the middle—with past positions in favor of cap-and-trade regimes (now repudiated) and gay civil unions. But to win, he still has to pull votes from the conservative base. How?

"When people look at what we've done," he says, "they're going to say, 'He's a conservative problem solver.' I'm going to point people in the direction of what we've done as governor. I'm pro-life, strongly pro-Second Amendment. I think there are enough voters who will say, 'I may not like everything, but there's enough here to like.'"




Friday, June 24, 2011 - The Food-Stamp Crime Wave - Opinion: The Food-Stamp Crime Wave


Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar "paperwork reduction" reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.

The Obama administration is far more enthusiastic about boosting food-stamp enrollment than about preventing fraud. Thanks in part to vigorous federally funded campaigns by organizations urging people to accept government handouts, the number of food-stamp recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million in 2007, and costs have more than doubled to $77 billion from $33 billion.

Lax attitudes toward fraud are spurring swindles across the nation…  Looser federal rules are spurring a bureaucratic crime wave.

The explosion in the number of food-stamp recipients tilts the political playing field in favor of big government. The more people who become government dependents, the more likely that democracy will become a conspiracy against self-reliance.




Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Obama vs. ATMs: Why Technology Doesn't Destroy Jobs - Opinion: Obama vs. ATMs: Why Technology Doesn't Destroy Jobs


The story goes that Milton Friedman was once taken to see a massive government project somewhere in Asia. Thousands of workers using shovels were building a canal. Friedman was puzzled. Why weren't there any excavators or any mechanized earth-moving equipment? A government official explained that using shovels created more jobs. Friedman's response: "Then why not use spoons instead of shovels?"

Businesses relentlessly look for ways to replace workers with machines. The machines get better and smarter. We go from spoons to shovels to excavators, not the other way around.  The president calls this a structural issue—we usually call it progress.

But should we call this progress? In a sense it sounds like a deal with the devil. Replace workers with machines in the name of lower costs. Profits rise. Repeat. It's a wonder unemployment is only 9.1%. Shouldn't the economy put people ahead of profits?

Well, it does. The savings from higher productivity don't just go to the owners of the textile factory or the mega hen house who now have lower costs of doing business. Lower costs don't always mean higher profits. Or not for long. Those lower costs lead to lower prices as businesses compete with each other to appeal to consumers.

The result is a higher standard of living for consumers. The average worker has to work fewer and fewer hours to earn enough money to buy a dozen eggs or a pair of shoes or a flat-screen TV or a new car that's safer and gets better mileage than the cars of yesteryear. That higher standard of living comes from technology. It isn't just the rich who get cheaper TVs and cars, plus the convenience of using an ATM at midnight.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - Don't Know Much About History

I love history, and agree that my grade school education did a poor job teaching it to me.  Luckily I had parents that dragged me to many historic sites and I picked up some glimmers of understanding.  I think my love of history didn’t really set in until I started to realize how much better I understand my world today by understanding history. - Opinion: Don't Know Much About History


The popular historian David McCullough says textbooks have become 'so politically correct as to be comic.' Meanwhile, the likes of Thomas Edison get little attention.

'We're raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate.  I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don't know." Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. "It's shocking."

He's right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation's history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

Mr. McCullough began worrying about the history gap some 20 years ago, when a college sophomore approached him after an appearance at "a very good university in the Midwest." She thanked him for coming and admitted, "Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast." Remembering the incident, Mr. McCullough's snow-white eyebrows curl in pain. "I thought, 'What have we been doing so wrong that this obviously bright young woman could get this far and not know that?'"

Answer: We've been teaching history poorly. And Mr. McCullough wants us to amend our ways.

One problem is personnel. "People who come out of college with a degree in education and not a degree in a subject are severely handicapped in their capacity to teach effectively," Mr. McCullough argues. "Because they're often assigned to teach subjects about which they know little or nothing." The great teachers love what they're teaching, he says, and "you can't love something you don't know anymore than you can love someone you don't know."

Another problem is method. "History is often taught in categories—women's history, African American history, environmental history—so that many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what."

What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all."




Sunday, June 19, 2011 - The Secret of Dads' Success

In honor of the Fathers out there (and with a big THANKS for mine)! - The Secret of Dads' Success


As an estimated 70.1 million fathers prepare to celebrate Father's Day in the U.S., recent research shows that their distinct style of parenting is particularly worth recognition: The way dads tend to interact has long-term benefits for kids, independent of those linked to good mothering.

Beyond rough-and-tumble play, men tend to challenge crying or whining children to use words to express themselves. Men are more likely to startle their offspring, making faces or sneaking up on them to play.

The benefits of involved fathering are known: improved cognitive skills, fewer behavioral problems among school-age children, less delinquency among teenage b oys and fewer psychological problems in young women…




Friday, June 17, 2011 - A Welfare State or a Start-Up Nation? - Opinion: A Welfare State or a Start-Up Nation?


Who you vote for in the next election will largely be determined by how you answer the following question: Should we encourage more productive use of resources or more social welfare? Higher taxes to support a larger welfare state means a larger share of national resources pay for a Medicare system that everyone recognizes as expensive and inefficient. More spending reduction, especially for Medicare and Medicaid, allows a more productive use of resources for growth.

Capitalist development and open economies lifted vastly more people out of poverty in a decade than welfare state policies had achieved in 50 years.  The welfare of the citizens—poor, middle-class and wealthy—is best improved by using resources more productively.

After one generation, a one percentage point difference in growth rate becomes a 25% difference in per-capita income. Low growth significantly lowers real wages and living standards for everyone, which in turn lessens tax receipts and resources for redistribution.

Mr. Obama and his followers claim they want a solution that is "fair." Why is it fair to distribute more welfare to today's voters at the expense of their children and grandchildren who will pay for this less productive use of resources? This is the same "fair" approach that Europeans chose decades ago, and which led to chronic low growth and high unemployment.

It isn't fair to tax future generations just because they can't vote. We have a choice between a brighter future for our descendants and more social spending now. The missing words "more productive use of resources" are critical for a rational choice. To realize the promise that the U.S economy has always offered, we must choose less social spending, less intrusive regulation, and more efficient use of resources in both the public and private sectors.




Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - Europe's Organic Food Scare

Factory farms have their own problems, but this example provides a counter-weight to the “organic is always better” argument. - Opinion: Europe's Organic Food Scare

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German Greens and their European Union acolytes have long fought scientific advances in food production and protection. After a spice manufacturer in Stuttgart employed the world's first commercial food irradiation in 1957, West Germany banned the practice in 1959 and has since allowed few exceptions. So it's no small scandal that the latest fatal E. coli outbreak has been linked to an organic German farm that shuns modern farming techniques.

But both harmful and harmless E. coli strains are present in the intestines of most animals, as well as human beings. No amount of standardizations or certifications will guarantee E. coli's eradication from food.

The best practice for doing so would be, well, irradiation, which involves sending gamma rays or electron beams into meat, poultry and produce. The process can deactivate up to 99.999% of E. coli, and was declared safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration almost 50 years ago. Even so, less than 10% of the global food supply is irradiated.

The problem is largely that the term "irradiation" sounds like what might have happened to Blinky, the three-eyed fish that Bart Simpson caught downstream from the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in a 1990 "Simpsons" TV episode. Yet study after study has turned up no evidence that zapping food with low doses of radiation damages human health.

This latest E. coli outbreak is painful real-life evidence that natural foods are not always better, nor safe for consumption. - The Lone Star Jobs Surge - Opinion: The Lone Star Jobs Surge


The Texas model added 37% of all net U.S. jobs since the recovery began.  Using straight nonfarm payroll employment, Texas accounts for 45% of net U.S. job creation.

What explains this Lone Star success? Texas is a big state, but its population of 24.7 million isn't that much bigger than the Empire State, about 19.5 million. California is a large state too—36.9 million—and yet it's down 11,400 jobs. Mr. Fisher argues that Texas is doing so well relative to other states precisely because it has rejected the economic model that now prevails in Washington, and we'll second that notion.

All states labor under the same Fed monetary policy and interest rates and federal regulation, but all states have not performed equally well. Texas stands out for its free market and business-friendly climate.

Capital—both human and investment—is highly mobile, and it migrates all the time to the places where the opportunities are larger and the burdens are lower. Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn't impose unions on businesses or employees. It is open to global trade and competition.

Yet the core impulse of Obamanomics is to make America less like Texas and more like California, with more government, more unions, more central planning, higher taxes. That the former added 37% of new U.S. jobs suggests what an historic mistake this has been.




Monday, June 13, 2011 - Power to the People? How Déclassé - Opinion: Power to the People? How Déclassé


In Colorado and elsewhere, the concept of citizen ballot initiatives is under attack.

Twenty-four states currently allow voters to write their own laws through the initiative process, sidestepping gridlocked legislatures to pass statutes or constitutional amendments. Conservative voters have used the tool to impose term limits and curb racial quotas. At the same time, liberals have used initiatives to pass minimum-wage laws and tobacco taxes that were often blocked by legislatures where lobbyists held sway.

It's just such citizen democracy that has irked the establishment in states such as Colorado, California and Oregon—so the political class is trying to rein it in.

It's fashionable these days for elites to disparage popular democracy. "The longer that people live in California, it seems, the more likely they are to be misinformed, and possibly brainwashed into ignorance," sniffed the Economist last April in a 16-page special report slamming that state's initiative process. But in reality, the initiative process serves as a popular check on out-of-touch legislators and reminds everyone that it's the voters who should be in charge of the politicians, not the other way around.




Friday, June 10, 2011 - Beware, a Big Headache Is Coming

I know several of my readers suffer from migraines.  Perhaps something here may be new info… - Beware, a Big Headache Is Coming


A migraine is among the most debilitating conditions in medicine—a blinding, throbbing pain that typically lasts between four and 72 hours. There is no cure.

Yet, a few hours or days before the dreaded headache sets in, subtle symptoms emerge: Some people feel unusually fatigued, cranky or anxious. Some have yawning jags. Others have food cravings or excessive thirst.

If migraine sufferers can learn to identify their particular warning signs, they may be able to head off the headache pain with medication or lifestyle changes before it begins, experts say.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Text of Pawlenty's Speech on His Economic Plan

I’m still very undecided on the 2012 GOP presidential race, but yesterday’s speech by Tim Pawlenty gets a big thumbs up from me.  I’m the first to agree that a good speech does not a good president make (see POTUS, current), but if we can get the electorate talking about and debating these issues we’re moving in the right direction.  Below are a few of my favorite soundbites.


Text of Pawlenty’s Speech on His Economic Plan


·         I’m willing to tell Americans the hard truth. And I believe Americans are ready to hear it.  But the truth about our economy isn’t hard at all. Markets work. Barack Obama’s central planning doesn’t. 

·         We should start by overhauling the tax code. Its currently an anti-growth nine thousand page monstrosity that’s chock full of special deals for special interests. It’s main goal — seems to be to generate campaign contributions. Not jobs. 

·         Business success should depend on winning over customers. Not winning over Congressman.

·         A balanced federal budget shouldn’t be a political sound bite.  It should be the law of the land…  We have to face the truth  — Congress is addicted to spending.    And that’s true regardless of which party is in control.    

·         We can start by applying what I call “The Google Test.”  If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it.  

·         Finally — even if we are successful in changing the way Washington taxes, spends, and regulates, many of the gains we’d realize could be lost by the continued debasement of the dollar — as a result of the loose-money policies of the Fed.  We need monetary policy that is focused like a laser on curbing inflation and maintaining price stability.  That should be the role of the Fed.  And nothing more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - The Real Cost of the Auto Bailouts - Opinion: The Real Cost of the Auto Bailouts


The government's unnecessary disruption of the bankruptcy laws will do long-term damage to the economy.

If the government hadn't stepped in and dictated the terms of the restructuring, the story goes, General Motors and Chrysler would have collapsed, and at least a million jobs would have been lost. The bailouts averted disaster, and they did so at remarkably little cost.

The problem with this happy story is that neither of its parts is accurate. Commandeering the bankruptcy process was not, as apologists for the bailouts claim, the only hope for GM and Chrysler. And the long-term costs of the bailouts will be enormous.

If the government wanted to "sell" the companies in bankruptcy, it should have held real auctions and invited anyone to bid. But the government decided that there was no need to let pesky rule-of-law considerations interfere with its plan to help out the unions and other favored creditors.
 - More Calls for a Drug War Cease-Fire

Brings the mind the common statement that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. - Opinion: More Calls for a Drug War Cease-Fire

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An increasing number of world leaders are concluding that laws against drug consumption do more harm than good.

Tomorrow marks the 79th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the U.S. prohibition on alcohol. On that day in 1932 John D. Rockefeller Jr., a vociferous advocate of temperance, called for the repeal of the 18th amendment.

Rockefeller had not changed his views on the destructiveness of drink, and he asked for ongoing "support of practical measures for the promotion of genuine temperance." But he insisted that lifting prohibition was essenti al if America was to "restore public respect for the law."

Rockefeller's reversal came to mind last week when the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a joint report "describ[ing] the drug war as a failure and call[ing] for a paradigm shift in global drug policy."

Like Rockefeller, the commission members do not embrace a laissez-faire policy toward drug use. But they recognize, as he did, that the attempt to use force to halt consumption has been disastrous. They recommend alternative approaches to controlling substances and more emphasis on treatment for addicts.

The parallels between the situation Rockefeller faced and today's scandalous war on drugs are dramatic. The wealthy philanthropist had begun his campaign against alcohol with great expectations. "When the Eighteenth Amendment was passed I earnestly hoped—with a host of advocates of temperance—that it would be generally supported by public opinion" and, he wrote, that teetotaling would eventually take hold.

"That this has not been the result but rather that drinking generally has increased; that the speakeasy has replaced the saloon, not only unit for unit, but probably two-fold if not three-fold; that a vast army of lawbreakers has been recruited and financed on a colossal scale; that many of our best citizens, piqued at what they regarded as an infringement of their private rights, have openly and unbashed[ly] disreg arded the Eighteenth Amendment; that as an inevitable result respect for all law has greatly lessened; that crime has increased to an unprecedented degree—I have slowly reluctantly come to believe."

He noted that any "benefits" from the 18th amendment were "more than outweighed by the evils that ha[d] developed and flourished since its adoption, evils which, unless promptly checked," were "likely to lead to conditions unspeakably worse than those which prevailed before."

Sound familiar?